The Press Article
LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS [PARLOPHONE]
It's all but inevitable that in 20 years time, there's going to be a plethora of young indie bands who will talk in reverential terms about "those early Supergrass albums." Since the release of their era-defining single 'Alright' in the halcyon summer of 1995, Supergrass have been travelling a doggedly independent, but never less than enthralling career path.
And now, with the Britpop wars a distant memory, Supergrass are - with the exceptions of Blur and Pulp - the only men left standing, creatively at least. Of course, Gaz Coombes and co. were always a far rootsier proposition than either of those groups, and they never really fulfilled their early commercial promise and delivered the expected million-seller in the vein of Parklife or Different Class.
Life On Other Planets is not going to be a major cross-over album either, but it thoroughly deserves a place in any serious record collection. On first listen, L.O.O.P. is a mellower, less frantic affair than its eponymously-titled predecessor, recalling one of my all-time favourite albums, Odelay (L.O.O.P. was produced by Beck collaborator Tony Hoffer). This laid-back approach has even filtered down to the artwork - a beautifully kitsch collage of trees and rainbows interspersed with shots of the band.
The playful mood is immediately evident on the dazzling one-two of the opening numbers, 'Za' and 'Rush Hour Soul'. The former is a bouncy, new-wave tune which surges from the speakers in a wave of serrated guitars and burbling electro effects, while the latter track is a chaotic pop stomp-a-long, complete with a cacophonous, freak-out guitar interlude.
'Seen The Light' indulges in the sort of levity for which Supergrass are famous/infamous, featuring a sample of a sheep baaing (really) and a vocal in which Coombes offers his best Elvis impersonation. 'Brecon Beacons' is Bolan-like glam rock with a madcap, Syd Barrett-esque lyric about witch hunts. The brilliant 'Evening Of The Day' starts out as a melancholy folk-rock number with some superbly reflective lyrics ("Tis the evening of the day/See the daylight turned away/As I'm lookin' at the view/All I'm really thinkin' of is you") before - in one of those abrupt-but-elegant changes of mood that Supergrass are masters of - kicking into a raucous, Stones-like chorus. And on they go, pinching masterfully from the most singularly uncool musical sources like Dickensian pickpockets. 'LA Song', for example, is the perfect example of the band neatly re-working their influences, on this occasion juxtaposing a thudding, Stranglers-like bass groove and Coombes' attitudinal, Hugh Cornwall-aping vocal with startingly sweet choruses.
There are plenty of other highlights along the way - the wailing punk thrash of 'Never Done Nothing Like That Before' and the delightfully wry pop number 'Grace' to name but two - but it's the final couple of tracks that elevate this album to greatness. Jarringly sombre, both songs are reminiscent of a certain other Oxford outfit.
'Prophet 15' is a mighty slice of psychedelia in the Pink Floyd mould, with a surprisingly angst ridden lyric - "I'm lost in a crowd and I can't get out/There's no other way/So don't try.) The choruses go on to list a litany of the dear departed ("Oscar Wilde and Peter Cook were close by/And John Belushi and Marvin Gaye were right there") and the theme is one of epiphany, and acute awareness of the inevitability of death. The closing 'Run', meanwhile, is an epic space-age waltz which erupts halfway through, courtesy of a speaker-melting guitar solo. It's a fittingly monumental end to another treasure-trove of sonic treats from this most creativity restless of bands. Keep on the 'Grass.
Paul Nolan, Hot Press - 09 October 2002